Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Foxy Frock Part 1

I swear, I need to get less busy. Surely, it shouldn't be a treat to sit down?! I've finally managed to squeeze in a little bit of sewing. It's taken me many weeks to get to this point, but today, I sewed the Clemence skirt to the Lilou bodice to make a jolly good start on my first Tilly & The Buttons 'Love at First Stitch' project.
So, I traced off my pattern (good little me), failed to make a muslin (the bodice darts are off as a result - bad little me) and started pinning the bodice pieces to that lovely fox fabric I bought at Leeds market on the Northern Meet Up I went on a few weeks ago. Then this happened:

Yes, the pattern is too wide for the fabric and there is not enough fabric to split into panels. I'm not going to lie, my teddies did get thrown from the pram - I really wanted to do a pleated skirt! - but then I got a grip, got my ruler and drafting paper and made the pattern for the Clemence skirt.

Soon, I had all my pattern pieces, used the tiny bit left over to cut the bow belt pattern and some pockets and barely had enough fabric. Very pleasing! I finally managed to get it all cut out, sewed the bodice, realised I had slight bagginess on the side front boob area, but it's not too bad and I'll do a bit more...adjusting before I sew the lining to the bodice. I really should make a muslin!
The mister went out tonight, despite his horrible cold, so I had a guilt-free evening of sewing. The skirt is now sewn to the bodice, I put it on me and I LOVE it! I can't wait to finish the wee little thing. Despite how keen I am to get it done, I did not fancy inserting an invisible zip when I'm a bit tired. So I've got some sewing to look forward to.
Also, I've decided to make generic petticoats for my frocks. It'll save money on lining, and time too! So once I've got a little slip for under this one, I can wear it without fear of it getting caught on my tights and riding up.
I've got the love back :-)

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Well...that was a long break.

Tomorrow is the first day of September, which means that it has been two months - two whole months! - since I last posted on my blog. I am so ashamed.
So why have I been gone so long? You know when someone says, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade"? Well, if someone had said that to me over the last few weeks, I'd have thrown the chuffing things back in their face and screamed, "I haven't got TIME!!!" then sat on the floor sobbing until someone brought me ice-cream and whisky. Dear reader, I moved house. Yes, I know, people do this all the time but, to cut a long story short, we ended up moving into my Grandmother's house, which meant clearing forty years' of Stuff. She's not here, she's in a nursing home, but our moving in and her moving out are in absolutely no way connected.
Unsurprisingly, there has been no sewing and definitely no time for blogging. I used my down time for napping. If I'd been a more organised blogger, I'd have prescheduled posts; but I'm not, so there were none.
You may now put away your violins because this weekend marked lots of good. In date order (because it's easier that way) I made a Tilly Coco and went to a Sewing Meet-Up. Both of these things were ace. And, in a divine coincidence, I wore the Coco to the Meet-Up, meaning one neat blog post.
Unless you don't follow other sewists on Twitter, or read any other sewing blogs the Coco is one of the most popular patterns on the planet since the BHL Anna. EVERYONE has made one. And, finally, now I have too. It's easy to see why this pattern is so popular - so easy, so clear, so stylish. And oh so quick. Having never sewn with a knit fabric before, and being terrified of said fabric, I managed a pretty damn good effort in just a few hours sewing (it took me a morning. I was done by lunch).
This photo of me wearing my Coco was taken by the lovely Myfanwy at the Leeds Sewing Meet-Up yesterday. This segues me quite nicely into said meeting, which was, quite frankly, an absolute hoot. People who sew are lovely people. This is a fact demonstrated by the ten ladies pictured below, plus Amy's mum who had left prior to this photo being taken. Recounting the day will be too upsetting for those who weren't there as it truly was ace, however, I did buy FOUR new fabrics (with projects in mind and everything) and got a tartan in the fabric swap. In a fit of organisation, I also managed to get threads to match all these new delights, and I've already washed, dried and pressed them ready for turning into something (hopefully) magnificent.
I got on the train back to London a very happy camper. And also still very full from lunch at Crowd of Favours, where the food is fantastic, plentiful and cheap. 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

French It Baby!


A slightly delayed post for a slightly delayed birthday party. My aunt and her new husband turned 60 in March and February respectively. Because they live in North Yorkshire, they thought it would be cold and dismal at that time of year and a celebration would best be put off until summer, when the sun was bound to be out and everyone could do country dancing in little cotton frocks and bare feet. Well, it was warm and cotton frocky and bare footy when we left London on Saturday. It was raining when we got to North Yorkshire. It was also freezing. I had only brought a cardigan, which in hindsight was ambitious even in the south.
But the outing did mean I could wear my new "French Gypsy" dress from Sew La Di Da Vintage. Originally, I planned to make the Sew Over It "Betty" dress for this party, but continued abortive attempts to make the bodice fit are turning that particular project into a rather Herculean task. "French Gypsy" has NO shoulder seams to contend with, so my wonky shoulders were not a problem (my wide shoulders were later in the form of chaffing, but that might be over enthusiastic stretching of the elastic when I sewed it in).
I used the heart print cotton I got at the ExCel in April having originally wanted to use the paisley print bought at the same event but it’s basically two inches wide and not suitable for such a big and swishy skirt.
This pattern sewed up really quickly and easily. There are very few pieces and even with my French seaming (too lazy for the over locker!) only took a day (albeit a long one) to put together. I also sewed the midriff section on upside down, which is always hilarious when you’ve done very neat French seaming and your interfacing frays.
There’s a lot of hand-sewing: all round the neck and arms (sewing on the HOMEMADE bias binding!) and the hem is about a mile long. Obviously, I was still sewing this at 11pm the night before the party, when we had to get up obscenely early to get to Yorkshire in time for lunch. We failed, because I am an eejit who misread the train times.
After much jollity at the party, for which I am eternally grateful to the Lovely Mister for talking to my drunk mother for most of the afternoon while I spoke to a lovely psychotherapist and a soon to be retiring headmistress about the joys of sewing. To give LM an afternoon off from awkwardly taking photos of me on his camera phone, I made use of the very pretty bedding garden and my dad’s camera that he wore around his neck like a tourist at all times apart from when dancing. He was actually mistaken for the photographer several times. So that’s why I look awkward. And also bloody freezing because it was about eight o’clock by this time and I’d lost feeling in my feet.
I do so love this dress. Hopefully, next time I wear it, I won’t be imploring my father to hurry up before I die of frostbite having had to remove my cardy…

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Making The Most Of Home

We might have to move house. There, I said it. But the fear is still there. Our lovely house is under offer and someone else will (hopefully) be living in it very soon. Obviously, I am leaving copious instructions of to care for the roses that I can't take with me, and labelling the vegetable patch so someone else gets to eat home grown carrots this year.
We both love this house but it's not really big enough for the full size drum kit (the Lovely Mister's; I cried when he moved it in - it's huge) and all our...stuff. The Lovely Mister is obsessed with moving; honestly, it's all he talks about. Me? My head is well and truly in the sand. I know where I am with this house: I know its lovely quirks and what we've done with it, I know what the local shop sells and I have my own seat on the train to work (creature of habit? Moi?). So, yeah, not looking forward to moving, especially as it's only a temporary half way move before we make a proper move (hopefully) next year. Not even moving into a dream forever home, just a rented house in an area we don't know.
So, in positives, I'm trying to make the most of where we live now. More trips to London, and more trips to Rochester, where I went this weekend.
Rochester is the lotus flower growing from the mud of the Medway towns. Sorry if you live in the other Medway towns (like me) but really, look out of the window and then argue that comment. Rochester is beautiful - a castle, Dickens, arts, crafts and lots of pretty alternative stuff too. The High Street is cobbled and wonderful, frequently visited by tourists and home to many, many independent shops and restaurants. Here's my pick of the best:

It took me ages to get this photo. An old lady walked across the shop front and walked the slowest I have ever seen a living human move. But look at those gorgeous dresses!

Along with its sister store "Kiss Kiss Heart", Rocket sells a range of rockabilly clothes, kitsch shoes and incredibly beautiful cool jewellery including a wonderful necklace with a skull on angel wings with two mini pistols, toadstool earrings and this ring, that I bought on a whim.
I also bought some dice earrings to put in my new(ish) extra ear piercing. I couldn't get the back off the last earring in there, so had to go to my parents' to get my dad to use some special pliers to get the back off. He hadn't noticed the extra piercing until it was pointed out to him, and my mum. My dad asked why and was dissatisfied with my answer of "because it's cool" and the subsequent "but it's supercool" and my mum said "you're over eighteen, you can do what you like with your body" which basically means she hates it. I love it. And I stand by its supercoolness, especially with my new dice earrings.
I'm in love with everything in this store, and you can shop online here.
This is easily the best restaurant in the world. I love it - best garlic bread, best pizza, best service. Go there. You will not regret it. You'll need to book, it gets busy.
Tony Lorenzo
Continuing the food theme, Tony Lorenzo is a great deli/sandwich bar. Tony Lorenzo even has his own CD. It's pretty good! Eat in, take away, and take your time choosing between the fillings. My favourite: the turkey mix or the hoisin duck.
Well, that's the end of the post. But did you sew? I hear you ask. What did you make? Well, I did sew and I did make something, but it's not quite finished yet, so you'll have to wait for the weekend when I wear it to family party. Weather permitting. It will be in North Yorkshire after all...

Friday, 20 June 2014

Wardrobe Architect - week 1

A while ago, I posted my discovery of the Wardrobe Architect and my delight at finding it. As usual, I've not been able to commit myself fully to it (I discovered it when I was supposed to be finishing my dissertation and now all the things I'd already put off during my degree are joyfully taking up all my time, which is wonderful, but I still find more I want to do. I will never learn). I am still incredibly inspired by the whole Wardrobe Architect thing, and so what if I don't stick to the weekly schedule? I can still be excited, especially when I saw that the "Do These Sound Familiar?" list was basically me:
  • You acquire things you don't use - oh my God, all the time. Our house is ridiculously full, I buy things on impulse all the time usually under a misguided idea that it will make my life better when the reality is I have no money, a situation that is not going to get better if I continue my spendy ways. Wardrobe Architect could save my bank balance
  • You feel regret over purchases - oh my God! This too! I regret buying things all the time - even buying a chocolate bar at the station because my train is cancelled - that 89p (89p?!) confection isn't going to get me home any quicker, won't make SouthEastern run a decent service and will just spoil my dinner and make me feel guilty and cause the usually lovely Mister to say "hashtag fatty" when I fess up. (NB The Mister does not think I'm fat; neither do I. Although if I continue to eat portion sizes to rival his, this may be reassessed)
  • You buy things that are "close enough" - I do not like settling when buying things, yet I always seem to be doing so. Part of this is lack of time to shop around and part is laziness. The rest is just that I don't feel like I have the ability to find exactly what I want. Also, the thing I want is usually more expensive than the cheaper alternatives and the alternative usually leaves me feeling a bit empty.
  • You make clothes that don't really fit your life well - why do I keep making party dresses? What's wrong with me? My Nerdy Night Out details my lack of desire to Go Out so why is everything I make so formal? I love wearing dresses but I think my fabric choices make things a bit too formal.
  • You feel like your wardrobe is all over the place - er...yeah! See ALL the points above.
  • You don't know how to put outfits together - ditto. Nothing matches/goes.
(adapted from Colletterie blog)

So you see, I really do need this in my life. Especially after I threw away a load of clothes last week, not helping my "nothing to wear problems". Now if only I could find the time...

Sunday, 15 June 2014

When All I Thought About Was Sewing...And Did None

This week has been a rather trying week. Work has been pretty shitty, all in all. Busy, which is good, but also learning that, lovely as most of my colleagues are, there are some that have an agenda, who are rude and unpleasant and who I'd very much prefer not to have to spend time with. That said, the beauty of my job means I don't have to talk to many people if I chose not to.
Another beauty of my new office is that everyone is super intelligent and interesting and I can walk into the kitchen on any given day and find conversations about economics and politics and films happening. I can quietly wash my mug and boil the kettle and learn about the price of oil and why it affects so much and go back to my desk with a new nugget of information.
In some ways, this lone working is quite nice, because if I'm feeling a bit anti-social I needn't explain this to anyone and can just go to the park, listen to some music and pretend that I'm not surrounded by tourists and City Boys.
Better than looking at Outlook

With Winterfylleth, this was an ideal way to spend a lunch break

A cheerful route back to the office
My busy week meant I was too tired to sew in the evening when all I could think about whilst I was working was sewing. I've got into a huge rut - I can't sew any dresses because I can't make the bodices fit, I think I know what I'm supposed to be doing but I'm too tired to be sure. And because I don't want to start anything until I've done this project, I can't do anything else. So I'm stuck. Not sewing. Not knowing what to do. No clue, no sewing, no dress.
My lack of creativity has led to a funk. Without an outlet, I get (more) tetchy, (more) angsty and generally a bit unhappy. It's that feeling you get when you want to eat a bar of chocolate but will yourself not to, when you know you shouldn't do something, but you can't help it - it's all you can think about. That tightness in your throat, that restlessness in your legs, the tingling in your fingers.
The unsettled feeling of not creating seeped into everything this week - my mood at work, my inability to get into any of the books I started reading, to pick an album and listen all the way through rather than flitting from artist to artist, song to song without finding that one tune that gets you at that precise moment. Dissatisfaction that chocolate can't solve, that whisky won't numb, that nothing but that one thing you don't know and can't find will erase. I tried everything.
But finally it was Saturday night and I was sitting in Queen Elizabeth Hall on the Southbank and Mark Lanegan cured me. He's done it before, with his growling raspy voice that stops you in your tracks, reaches down your throat and makes you want to cry the deep, hard tears you cry at the end of a Richard Curtis film (the good kind of tears). Seeing him live was just the tonic I needed. I came out feeling soothed, calm, and ever so slightly more positive. If you've not discovered the magic of Lanegan, try my favourite album of his "Bubblegum" or my close runner up "Blues Funeral".
I still haven't done any sewing or fit fixing because I spent today doing laundry, playing with the dog, eating home grown raspberries, going for a run I'll definitely regret tomorrow and going through my clothes and chucking stuff out I don't wear. I have very few clothes left. I best get sewing.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Ultimate Trousers. And the Most Stupid Thing EVER

God, this post has taken a while to get round to. Where, dear reader, does time GO? I get in from work and ten minutes later, it's bed time; or so it seems. So no blog post since I went on the Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers course last week.
I have to say, I really enjoyed my day there. The other girls were lovely; Julie, the teacher, was great; the lemon drizzle cake was the tastiest cake ever. Sadly, my trousers did not come out as well as I envisaged:
It's quite hard to see because of the spots but there's a bit of erm...a baggy crotch and a saggy bottom issue going on. The top also gapes at the waist, which I think is because of my terrible overlocking skills on the facing. And I had to lengthen the front because I have a long torso.
I was slightly disappointed that the baggy/saggy issues weren't addressed during the class. Having spent £95 on the class, I pretty much have a pair of trousers I'll seldom wear and no idea how to fix the issue. I'd definitely recommend the classes, but more if you just want to learn to sew rather than learn to fit. Oh, and the other girls on the course made amazing trousers with no fit issues, so I think it's just me and my peculiar shape/lack of shape rather than the pattern.
So, onto the Most Stupid Thing EVER. If you've read my blog before, you may remember that I am OBSESSED with my bodice fitting issues (read about the obsession here and here). My current project is the Sew Over It Betty Dress, which I plan to make in navy blue cotton. I want a bodice that fits goddamn it. So I watched my Craftsy Course, I traced off my pattern pieces, I increased the seam allowance by another 3/8" to give some wiggle room in the muslin, then I clatted about making a muslin with lines sewn on it, as per the course. Then I went to see my Granma for help. This is after I tried to get the Lovely Mister to help. Here's how that went:
Me: Can you just pin up the back to hold the back closed?
LM: How do I do that?
Me: Do you not know how to put in a pin?
LM: No. Why would I know that?
Me: You've never pinned anything?
LM: No.
Me: (brief silence whilst agog). Well, this is how you do it (shows LM slowly on spare fabric)
LM: (looks at me like I've just performed alchemy. I show him again.) Right got it.
Me: OK. Be careful. Just go up the line I pressed in the back.
LM: What?
Me: The crease! (lengthy pause)
LM: I think I've done it
Me: (not convinced as I don't feel very secure in the bodice) Really?
LM: Yeah, I think so.
Me: (feeling round the back, immediately prick myself on a pin) Have you just poked it through the fabric?
LM: Yes! That's what you showed me!
Me: How have you fucked this up? How can you not know how to pin?! (has a sit down as hysterical laughter has descended on the house. Dog looks confused.) You're useless. I'm going to my Gran's.
So I trotted off to my Gran's leaving the Lovely Mister to recover from his ordeal listening to a record. (Honestly, how does he put up with me? Also to contend with this weekend, trying to get some knit fabric to lie flat during which I was almost moved to tears. A saint I tell you).
Now, who's tried to explain to an eighty-seven year old woman that you would like to do something she has been doing for the last seventy years differently? Any takers? No, didn't think so. But I tried. I failed. We did not do it like the Craftsy course. But the bodice did fit by the end (BTW, did a full bust adjustment (1/2") who'd have thunk it?!) and I came away with lots of drawing on me. Including making the shoulders narrower.
This should have been the red light for me - I do not have narrow shoulders. My shoulders poke out of every top. I cannot wear capped sleeves for risk of losing my arms if I put my hands above my head.
When I finally sat down to do some sewing over the weekend, I realised my cataclysmic error. Remember the extra 3/8" I added to the muslin pattern pieces? Yeah? I added 3/8" to the centre front as well. Where it says 'cut on fold' I added a total of nearly an INCH! AN INCH!! So the darts are screwed, the back is screwed and my Granma's gone on a holiday so I'm now stuck! I had to take the bodice to work today and ask a colleague I know enough to talk about sewing with but not enough (as it turns out) to help me pin bust darts in the ladies' loo to help.
What. A. Numpty.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Did I Just Network??

I absolutely heart Twitter. I have found several delightful things to do via other people's tweets and have loved every single one.
Since leaving my last job, my dream of running my own business in the creative industry seems much more achievable - my life is more my own now, more predictable and my mind is freer to think, imagine and plan. So the School for Creative Start-Ups "Make Good Festival" on this weekend was marvellous. And of course I found out about it via Twitter.
I'll admit it right now, I was ridiculously excited to be at Make Good - I was going to be able to speak to people who'd realised my dream and I could find out how they did it. So I didn't really make a particularly good impression to the graduates with my exuberance.
I have never felt more inspired or part of a community as I did for the few hours I was at the festival. Loads of graduates from S4CS in the Old Selfridges Hotel, tonnes of brilliant, original ideas from possibly the loveliest people I've ever met. Here is my selection of the loveliest:
Jessica Mae
Picture from @JessicaMaeStyle
Jessica O-George from Jessica Mae is a Personal Style Concierge. I'm not going to lie, I was slightly intimated. Jessica is gorgeous, and, as you'd expect, incredibly stylish. She's not all about shopping either: she teaches her clients about what clothes suit their body shape, suit their needs and utilise garments you already own as well as identify gaps (which means shopping, but focussed shopping). She was with Lucy Denver, personal trainer from Denvertronix who was also lovely. Between them, we'll all be stylish and fitter. And Jessica doesn't grab tits Gok Wan style. I checked.
Betty Etiquette
Oh how Betty and I laughed. She is lovely; truly, truly lovely. She's also dead set on getting people writing to each other with pen and ink, rather than endless texting and emails. I could not agree with this more. So much so, I signed one of her pledges:
Her designs were amazing too and arranged into collections - cool spring tones, American style pennants, thick water colour brush messages. The cards were on different weights of paper too, which really added to the whole effect of the beautiful, and very reasonably priced, cards. Betty's website contains lovely images of her cards and I've bookmarked it for future celebrations, particularly as I've been given the role of Birthday Monitor at my new job. Yeah, that's right, I got me a supplementary role.
Betty Etiquette is also on my favourite social media site and you too can follow the creative loveliness at @BettyEtiquette. And, as I say, Betty is lovely - we laughed tonnes.
Handmade by Bex
I am OBSESSED with these embroidered embroidery hoops. I also love that Bex and I both got excited about her incredibly neat stitching. If you've had a new arrival recently, or are searching for the perfect congratulatory gift, the frames on the right contain embroidered birth announcements. Bex does commissions, works around looking after her children (I told you these people had the life I wanted) and was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and, quite frankly, a genius with a needle and thread. Her items are also really reasonably priced, really on trend and would make a lovely country cottage addition to any home. Take a look at the rest of her work on her website. Honestly, the stitching is ridiculously neat - an absolute thing of beauty. Of course, there's also twitter and Facebook.
Miss Goodweather
might have embarrassed myself at this stand but, wait for it, Tara makes and sells breathable, waterproof cotton dresses. WATERPROOF DRESSES!!! That is basically what I was like at her stand, which was in itself a thing of beauty:
Tara was also inspirational. She did a job she hated and JUST QUIT without any real plan other than she wanted to make stuff. And she came up with this! WATERPROOF DRESSES! Amazing, truly amazing. And, incredibly affordable. The website has a collection you can buy AND, I've just seen, hoodlets are coming soon. I need this in my life. Find the delightful Miss Goodweather on twitter and facebook. I defy you not to become as excited as me about this.
And, having suitably embarrassed myself with delight, there was even time to chat to Tilly from Tilly and The Buttons who helped me with my shoulder seam problem, which was lovely of her.
When I met up with the lovely mister afterwards I had a sudden realisation. I networked! I, who not four hours prior had been sympathising that my boss has to do three whole days of networking (and evenings too!) next week. Maybe the crafty kind of networking is networking I can get on board with.
I am truly inspired by all these creative and talented women. I wish them all every success in the future and have no doubt that they will continue to be amazing. And they all, every single one, persuaded me to go for it and sign up for the next year of S4CS. Maybe I will!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Second Thing

In a previous post, I mentioned I'd made TWO things in a weekend but I cheekily only blogged the Paris Skirt. The reason for that was that the second garment I made to be a gift for the lovely mister's niece. This frock!

I've never sewn anything for a child before, so this was definitely a first. As you can see, I had a slight problem with sewing the lining to the bodice but apart from that, I'm very pleased with my efforts. Alas, the frock was much too small so it is now in the cupboard waiting for my as yet unborn niece to attain the age of two in two years and one month's time. Ho hum.
This pattern also came from the Sewing Bee book but I made some changes to the design - I didn't use an exposed zip for a kick-off.

There are reviews on Amazon that the patterns with the Sewing Bee aren't that great. The skirt for me came out just fine, however, I think that the age three frock made above is inaccurate. I don't really know how big a child is supposed to be at different ages but from looking at the mister's niece, this might have fitted her a year ago. So, if you have this book, make sure you really measure properly to get the right size.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Wardrobe Architect

Not only do I now get bank holidays off (every one!) but I also get a Privilege Day today. Slightly depressingly, the lovely Mister is at work and it's pouring with rain so this has somewhat sapped my motivation. But I've used the opportunity to make a lemon cake and do the ironing and now I'm catching up on my blog reading.
I follow a number of sewing blogs and it's great to be part of such a friendly and informative on-line community. I learn about new patterns, new fabrics, fitting issues and generally get to see what other people are making. Given that I seldom get to see my crafting friend Serife on account of our schedules never aligning, I am somewhat devoid of people to speak to in Real Life about sewing and making.
I discovered Sew Little Time through another blogger and I love what Joanne makes. Since I've had time today, I've been catching up on her posts and found this from January (she posted about it in a more recent entry - I've not got that much time on my hands!). Discovering Wardrobe Architect has literally come at the best time. This morning, whilst I was ironing, I was thinking about my wardrobe: how nothing matches yet I have way too many clothes - it's seriously out of hand. I'd love to also participate in Me Made May next year and long for the day when I have an entirely self-sewn wardrobe like the delightful Ooobop. This shouldn't be too hard to achieve given that I surely don't need twenty t-shirts and six pairs of jeans. 
So I'm on the Wardrobe Architect journey, a lot later than the everyone else but hey, who says it's bad to be late to the party? I will be blogging my progress and I hope I inspire some of you to join in.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

My Nerdy Night Out

I am no fan of a Big Night Out. In fact, just a Night Out is sometimes enough to make me want to climb under the duvet and not come out until morning: proper morning where you can have egg on toast or cornflakes and do something constructive, not morning where you eat a botulism infected kebab and get into bed leaving one foot rooted on the floor to stop your drunken self being sick. So this week I was unusually excited about Friday night because this Friday night I was Going Out.
It all started with Twitter as I'm more frequently finding the best things do. Dorothy Koomson, author of my favourite book of all time was going to be at Brixton library reading from her latest novel The Flavours of Love (which is actually an emotional thriller/crime novel, not something you buy at the airport and finish in twenty unsatisfactory minutes). The event didn't start until seven so I had at least two whole hours to kill in London by myself (because I know literally no one who'd go to this with me) so after obsessively looking at the library on Google Maps full of fear of becoming lost in Brixton, I realised it was very near Coldharbour Road, which was very near to Atlantic Road, which, hang on, houses Simply Fabrics. I could go there, thought I, and then, another brain wave: 'I'm going on the Ultimate Trousers workshop at Sew Over It next week, I'll get my fabric; Clapham's not far'. So I plotted bunking off work early (I do extra every day so this isn't nearly as naughty as it sounds) and go to Sew Over It in Clapham, then Simply Fabrics in Brixton, then use Tesco clubcard points to eat out (I am that skint) and then go to the library.
I was thwarted, as usual with these plans. First, I managed to bunk off twenty-five minutes early and that's it. Then I got to Clapham North and forgot the road name for Sew Over It and the 3G wasn't working. Eventually, though, I made it to Landor Road:
So I found it and things started looking up. The shop was smaller than I expected but this was actually quite a good thing. I wanted every fabric there. There is a wide choice of designs and fabric types and I spent some time looking for the perfect fabric. I ended up with this fabric for my trousers:
and then realised that it's the same fabric from the photograph advertising the class. But the staff in the shop were so friendly and were as excited as me when I announced I was off to Brixton to Simply Fabrics.
Back on the tube, where I got shut in the door (again) because I can never hear the beeps, and off to Brixton.
I have never been to Brixton before. I have been to Vauxhall because I used to work there, but I have never gone to the end of a tube line. I was incongruous for a multitude of reasons, primarily that I was nowhere near cool enough to be walking down Atlantic Road with its reggae music and jerk chicken shops. After several near misses with traffic (the traffic lights in London make no sense to me) I made it to Simply Fabrics.
It is somewhat different inside from the trendy Sew Over It but, my word, what choice. There was so much choice that I purchased nothing. I am putting this down to cowardice and fatigue and also that they didn't have the fabric I wanted to make my Coco dress. But I spent thirty minutes playing with fabrics, wondering whether a cute white fabric with daisies printed on was too see through for a blouse with no vest (it was) and stroking silks, linens, cottons, a weird neoprene and some ready quilted tartan. I will definitely go back to Simply Fabrics, but maybe when I feel slightly less on edge from a failed early off from work and the knowledge that I was the least cool person in the whole place.
My final thwarting was that I had failed to find a Tesco ClubCard participating restaurant that didn't involve going all the way to Herne Hill to eat alone in Pizza Express and then come back to Brixton to the library. What if I didn't get served and eat in time? What if the trains weren't regular enough? What if, what if, what if? So I went to Marks and Spencer and bought a salad. This led to another conundrum - I was alone, all the benches at Brixton Oval would have involved sitting with Other People, and I absolutely hate eating in the street, much less eating standing up. So I went across the road to the church yard having spied an empty bench, which I sat on and then realised my error. To my left, a group of hobos drinking cans and making a lot of noise. To my right, a pile of discarded trainers. By this time, I was both hungry and anxious to get into the library to get a good seat so I manned up and ate my M&S food with hobos and old trainers and tried not to sink into despair that I was never at one with my environment - I'm the one eating KFC in St James' Park and M&S in the hobo's churchyard, jeans when everyone's in a frock, a frock when everyone's in their onesie.
This near despair led me to a corner shop for a Yorkie and a bar for a whisky and coke. As I was alone, I spent my time on Facebook (naturally) and reading about interwar Britain on my kindle. I was the least cool person in the bar by a country mile.
Finally, it was time to go to the library. I sat in the front row, even though I know this is not cool and even though I know that this is not the done thing. I sat next to an American lady who was a food writer (I know this people despite hating Other People, they do like to speak to me. Everyone else there must have loved Other People because no one else was getting spoken to). I was not the least cool person at the library. People were outwardly very excited. Inside, I was very excited but I like to think I looked cool, a bit.

Dorothy (feels weird just using her first name) Koomson was excellent - she read twice, answered plenty of questions and then, LOOK! She signed my copy of my favourite book of all time 'The Chocolate Run'.


And then, she let me have my photo taken with her!
 So fabric, food, alcohol, books and Dorothy Koomson: my night may have been nerdy but my god was it good.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

My Shoulder Seam Shame

I am a woman possessed. Regular readers of my blog will probably now be sick of my lamenting over the shoulder seam issues. But for new readers, let me catch you up: something is wrong with me, very very wrong. My shoulder seams sit about 3cm too far back, which caused a near garrotting when I made a slash necked dress. So I signed up for a Craftsy Course that I haven't had time to do yet because I had to write my last essay and then I got waylaid making a skirt, and a kid's dress. This procrastination has led to some terrible mind wandering. I sat in a meeting the other day and I found myself looking at my female colleagues, analysing their shoulder seams, where they sat on their shoulders and what was different about their bodies to mine, the way they sat etc etc. Basically, I was weird. I need to sort out this shoulder seam problem before I get a reputation. Or get caught reading sewing blogs at my desk.

NB, some of the women weren't sitting up straight and thus had rounded shoulders, so why did their shoulder seams sit nicely and not have their neck lines garrotte them?!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

J'adore Sewing

I've not had much chance to sew or blog for the past couple of weeks, but the good news is I finally finished my degree I started part time five years ago and celebrated by reading contemporary women's fiction (not chick lit!), sewing TWO things and obsessing, and I mean obsessing about shoulder seams. But more of that later.
Let's skim over the reading too and focus purely on the sewing. Now, because of the shoulder-seam-problem-I-haven't-had-time-to-learn-to-fix-yet I decided that the urge to sew needed to be sated by a skirt. For the first time, I used the Sewing Bee 'Sew Your Own Wardrobe' book that I bought ages ago but due to aforementioned business, I've not had time to use yet. I didn't read any reviews before I bought it but I was informed that there are a few problems with the patterns - notches and whatnot that don't align and so on. And sadly, those reviews were right. I made the box pleat skirt, as you can see. The notches on the waist band don't align but, honestly, that's not a problem if you can do basic maths, which even I can do.
This skirt is basically my new favourite thing. I adore it. In fact, I j'adore it. Look at this lovely fabric!
It's the Paris theme I bought at the ExCel in April and I've added a lining (basically used the supplied pattern pieces but folded the pleats on the pattern and cut the lining flat).

I wore it to work yesterday to declarations that I looked "summery", which was nice. It attracted many comments but, once again, to cowardly to admit I'd made it myself. I did find a pin in the side seam when I went to the loo though. Luckily it did not injure me like that mad killer on the last series of Sherlock and I did not bleed to death immediately. Hoorah!

 Also, huge apologies for quality of these photographs. I have to get a better camera. And learn how to pose for photos...

Sunday, 4 May 2014

New patterns!

Even though I'm determined to sort out my ridiculous hunchback fitting issues before I crack on with my lovely new fabric (and the stuff on my wish list...) it didn't stop me buying new patterns. On that, I'm sure I don't have a hunchback. I've asked the Mister - a lot - and although conceding that I am a bit sway backed, said I definitely do not have a hunchback. He REALLY knows how to woo a girl. Oh, and now he's got me joining in with his stretch routine every morning and evening. For some reason he was surprised that I am not in the slightest flexible. And now I've got a bar bell complex to do and I've been sitting properly at work...
So, new body issue obsession aside, I've got some great sewing to look forward to in the coming months. You may remember this post where I lament that Sew Over It don't have all their patterns available to buy without doing the classes. Well, my nagging may have helped and Lisa Comfort has released the Betty dress pattern with promises of more to follow later in the year.

Betty Dress
Another pattern stirring up a storm in the blogosphere is the Coco by Tilly from the wonderfully named Tilly and the Buttons. What a cool name! Coco has been made by hundreds now, many have made more than one and it's easy to see that this will become a wardrobe staple for a lot of people. I'm hoping to be one of them. Look how cool Tilly's little Coco frock is?
It seems really versatile, so I'll definitely be making at least one. Just as soon as I can find time in my lunch break to visit some of the shops she recommends for knit fabric. I've never sewn with knit fabric before so I can't wait to give it a go!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Admitting Defeat...But Carrying On

As mentioned (several times now, I believe) I was terribly ill after the ExCel fair (I had a cold. But it was a bad one - the mister came home on the Thursday to find me home early from work under a blanket with streaming eyes and nose whimpering, 'I don't think I was better after all' after the false dawn on Wednesday when I'd declared myself recovered and celebrated by plating potatoes in the garden). So anyway, my sewing was a bit neglected but, from my exile in the spare room, I dipped in and out of all my sewing books trying to find a solution to the ever present sewing problem I have - my weird body. I've read many blogs where the authors have commented on how sewing your own clothes actually gives you more body hang-ups to obsess about. So not only did I have my obvious no boob, no waist, no hip hang-ups from before, I've now got rounded shoulders and a long torso to contend with.
All this came about from how ALL my clothes, RTW and homemade, have the same problem - waist higher at the front than the back, shoulder seams approximately three whole centimetres too far back. I really wanted to make at least one dress this bank holiday weekend, but I wanted something that fitted. Number one on my 'To Make' list is the Blitz dress from Sew La Di Da.. I've raved about Caroline's gorgeous frocks so much and now I want one that fits! So, after some sick-bed googling the other week, I did manage to find a solution. Basically, I cut three centimetres plus 1.5cm seam allowance off the FRONT bodice pattern piece of the dress and attached this to the BACK at the shoulder. The raw edges once cut out in fabric would be the NEW FRONT BODICE shoulder to the NEW BACK BODICE shoulder. Basically, I stuck it together with tape with the old shoulder seams together so the part I cut off was the new shoulder edge. I then moved 3cm of the under sleeve around from the FRONT of the arm piece to the BACK meaning that my underarm seams would still meet the side seams in the right way. So far, so good. I'd also like to point out at this point that I was UNBELIEVABLY proud of myself. Then I realised that the waist was now basically under my bust at the front and even lower than usual at the back. I decided that it probably needed a wedge added SOMEWHERE on the side of the bodice front. I have no idea where, or to what proportion and I'm not good at finding stuff on the internet. At this point, I decided I needed to go on a course about fitting. I've seen loads of reviews for this one from Craftsy and could see that the only bad thing was that it is American and therefore involves all sorts of complicated fraction maths in inches. I'll find a converter and be just fine...
Oh, and I signed up for the Sew Over It Ultimate Trouser Course in June, which should help with the erm...lower half fitting issues I have.
Despite not getting to sew nearly as much as I hoped this Easter break, I am really excited that I've found some ways to fix the sewing problems I have and learn more about my passion for making clothes.
What courses would you like to go on?

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Circle Skirt. And More Lazy Sewing

I made this circle skirt using the By Hand London Circle Skirt App, which is quite simply the best app that's ever been made. It's certainly more useful than Angry Birds (does that count as an App??). Either way, this app is fantastic and it's free! Even better!
So, I'd been to the January sales at John Lewis with my friend and bought some gorgeous fabric that I realised later was just perfect for this project. I decided to make the full circle skirt at mini length so made a pattern according to the measurements. Now, I'm ridiculously proud of myself here but I don't have a compass, especially not one that's big enough for this. So I took some string, stuck it to a pencil, measured the string to the correct length, held it in the corner of the paper et voila, a perfect curve.

Two seams and a zip later and my skirt was sewn, another seam and the waist band was on (although I later took it off to put some interfacing on - it was pretty flimsy). Then it was just the hem.
Then I worked out how long the hem was. Five metres. Hmm. So I bought some bias binding from Beyond Fabrics and spent the whole of an old episode of Mr Selfridge pinning it to the skirt hem.

I love this skirt. And I wore it to work today and got lots of lovely comments - it was described as both "cute" and "fun" but I was too embarrassed to admit to making it myself so I blushed but not in the nice Austen way and scurried off. I am too lame. Anyway, it was great fun to wear. Please excuse the terrible photographs. Believe me when I said these were the best of a bad lot - after a long day at work, this was the best there was.  

Sunday, 20 April 2014

A New Weekend Bag

My last post was all about the ExCel fair and I shamelessly showed off my new fabrics. I came down with an almighty cold the day after so apart from a rather limp bit of cross stitch from my sick bed, very little actually got done.
So I was doubly excited by the prospect of FOUR days off over Easter. FOUR! I've worked a 24/7 shift pattern for the last eight and a half years. In that time, I worked nearly every Christmas and/or Boxing Day, every New Year's Eve and at least some of Easter. If I got Good Friday off, I'd be in all weekend and the Monday too; if I was working at the weekend, I'd probably have worked the Monday. Basically, Easter was a non-event for me. But this year is a whole different story. I took Wednesday and Thursday off to write the penultimate essay of my degree, which I sort of did alongside plotting crafty projects for the weekend and googling sewing and rhubarb recipes.
I started my sewing on Friday by trying to make head or tail of the instructions of my weekend bag. They didn't make a whole lot of sense so I powered on regardless.
WARNING: This weekend bag is DEFINITELY not a beginner project - it looks like it is, but it really isn't. Mostly because the sewing instructions make very little sense, the handle length they say to cut is miniscule and there is NOWHERE for the 15cm zip it specifies you get to go. There were also elements of the bag that were a massive clat and didn't really work particularly well.
BUT, I am very pleased with my lovely new Weekend bag. The lining is this super cool Rowan Documents that is basically photos of 1950s travel documents. I think it goes really well with the weathered Atlas face fabric:

I managed to get the handles to match up underneath, so that's something, and I love these brass O rings I found at U-Handbag.
I even managed to get these heavy duty snaps in all by myself! OK, so there was a lot of banging with the hammer, the dog was so frightened he had to go outside and the Mister kept drawing breath and warning me to "be careful".
So now I just need to go on holiday. Love this bag!

Monday, 7 April 2014

London's ExCel and Female Solidarity

Well, things are looking up since my last post - we've got a new laptop, which I've spent much of today using because I had to work from home. I have a cold and am definitely not fit for public consumption.
So, I suppose cold aside things are looking up. Mostly because my craft cupboard is now positively bulging with possibility and delight after my trip to the ExCel centre this Saturday. It's somewhat of an annual pilgrimage for me, my mum, and her mum. It sounds really twee but going to creative things with the people who taught me to sew and make things is really rather lovely. Granma's 87 now, so mum bought a folding stool for her to have regular sit downs, and we got to use the lift - score! My bag was really heavy by the end of the day.
As always, I went with a budget but this time I actually stuck to it. Due to perpetual brokeness (and a very expensive day on Friday buying tickets for gigs!) sticking to it was more a necessity than a challenge and I actually really enjoyed it: having to think about each purchase rather than being seduced my colours and textures and general prettiness.
So here's the fabric

There wasn't a lot in terms of new stands this time, but the usual traders were there and better than ever. Of course, I made not one but two trips to the wonderful Fabrics Galore. My weekend bag has been on the way out for ages so I'm going to make one from the map fabric. I later bought a really cool lining from John Lewis that I'll reveal when I've made the bag.

There was also Lili Fabrics who I'll admit to not having seen before, or at least not making a purchase from. I got the heart fabric and the wonderful white fabric with vintage ladies on from them. I was going to make this 1940s pattern with it but then thought it would look much better as a 1950s halterneck; what do you think?
Speaking of Sew La Di Da, the wonderful Caroline was there with her gorgeous and simple patterns AND she's got fabric now in her shop and she bought some with her. She is very honest about your choices and helped me find something that didn't make me look washed out (yellow is not my colour...) and I ended up with the green paisley and rose that will be used to make her beautiful Gypsy Dress.
The Parisian scene fabric from Fabrics Galore was shown as a lovely skirt with green Gingham pockets and piping round the yoke. It's a medium weight canvassy cotton so I'm thinking maybe a shirt dress? Perhaps something like this from Sew Over It (new website looking lovely, Lisa!). Short sleeves would work best I think for this fabric.
So, along with the cross stitch (I love cross stitch but am aware that it is the lamest of all my sewing endeavours - but it's Little Red Riding Hood! My favourite fairy tale and who doesn't love a woodland scene?!) and the mini sampler kit, I should be well entertained until the Knitting and Stitching Fair in October.
It was also great to see that the fair was both bigger and busier, but not just with the usual suspects: there were many young women there and teenagers as well. From eavesdropping (I can't help it) it was clear that some of them hadn't sewn much before and they were angsting with their companions about whether or not they could make the skirt pattern they held lustily in their hands. It was wonderful to see their friends offering genuine encouragement and support, offers of help and compliments on choices of pattern and fabric.
It was great, and does make me slightly ashamed that I spent today thinking bad thoughts about Miley Cyrus (I can't understand why she can't keep her tongue in her mouth). So it was good to see other women actually supporting each other rather than the seemingly endless sniping and bitching at each other.
There's much more to crafting than a pretty wardrobe.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Things come in threes

After my last blog ended with the promise of new fabric arriving for a new frock, life did take a rather more difficult turn. No one died or anything - well, the laptop did - but things were just a little bit fraught.
So, the fabric didn't arrive. But the company were very good about it and Royal Mail did eventually deign to deliver my parcel. I have finished the dress, but it is not hemmed and, even if it was, I've not been photogenic because I just haven't had time to make much effort.
And the third thing...? Well, we're selling the house, which is just causing more stress than it needs to. When you're busy at work, the last thing you need is an estate agent ringing you to arrange viewings when you've explicitly said not until after work so you then worry the dog will a) become stressed at people coming in that he doesn't know b) make such a racket that he's a nuisance.
But...doom and gloom aside - it's the Creative Stitches event this weekend, which I'll be going to, and I'll also hem my dress and take photos - particularly now that the evenings are lighter and that can be done when I get home. Let's just reflect on light evenings shall we? How glorious to not turn on the headlights on the way back from the train station each night! And on days like today, there's just a sniff of real spring in the air.
So stand by then for finished dresses, photographs, fair reviews and sunny pictures. Just as soon as I've worked out how to use this new laptop...

Monday, 10 March 2014

A Busy Couple of Weeks...And a Finished Frock

Phew! It's been a busy few weeks for me, hence the blog silence. I just haven't had time to sit down and blog. I had/have a uni essay to finish - just a few hundred more words to complete. In just two more essays after this, it's over. Hoorah! It's been a very long five years - working full time and studying is incredibly hard work.
But, despite all this high-brow (ahem) scribbling, I have done some sewing. In fact, I have done a fair bit: I finished the Sew Over It 1940s Tea Dress Sewalong!

I am very pleased with myself: the fabric was terrifying but I won! The hem is slightly uneven and I had to get my gran round to help with the fit. Remember me saying I cut the size 10 and should've cut the 8? I should always cut the 8! Gran pinned me (and given that she's nearly ninety, she did literally pin me a couple of times!) into the dress and I now have these nifty dart things in the bust. I took in two cm this way, using a double ended dart from the waist band/front section to the arm hole. I also took in about two cm on the back using the same method. 

So here's one of the back as well. I still think that some more could be taken in off the back but I'll wear it a few times first. I don't want to sew myself into a straight-jacket!
And, because I've not blogged for a while, here are some fun pictures. Not too fun mind: I don't want pictures of me looking like a complete idiot on the internet. This is my first fashion shoot, we (lovely Mr and I) were in the garden following a day enjoying the gorgeous weather/hemming a frock when we trolleyed outside to do some pictures. The skirt is beautifully swishy and I wanted a picture of it swishing. Cue lovely Mr crouched on the decking taking pictures with his phone while I spin on my toes. Obviously, most of the pictures are of me looking like an idiot. Here is a slightly idiotic picture shortly before the swishing began:
And here is one of The Swish. This is the best of a bad lot:
I love how the fabric moves. It's so good to get away from cotton, even if I did buy some gorgeous fabric today for my next project, which I hope to start on Friday. So there's something to look forward to.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Blueberry Muffins (made with spelt)

I bought some wholemeal spelt flour a while ago to make a cake, but I can't find the recipe now so it's been languishing in the cupboard. I'm not really a breakfast person: usually a soya yoghurt or a breakfast bar does it for me (for about an hour anyway). So I thought I might make some wholemeal muffins and came along this recipe.
They looked pretty healthy (for a breakfast cake anyway!) and would use up some blueberries that I had in my fridge.
Here's a picture of them in the making, which, I'm sure you'll agree, is a much less appetising picture than the finished article.

They taste completely lovely and I'm hopeful they'll keep me full for longer than the yoghurt does!

The mixture is very thick when you make these recipe. And I added extra blueberries. You know, to make them healthy. Or something.